Nokia: WiMAX Mobile Phones in 2008

At a WiMAX technology conference this morning in Boston, representatives from Nokia told the press that consumers should expect to see WiMAX capable mobile devices from Nokia sometime during 2008. This news came as the company rolled out a WiMAX-enabled version of its lightweight base station, previously used just for transmitting HSDPA and W-CDMA third-generation cellular signals.

Nokia's timing is pretty much on target, since mobile carrier Sprint Nextel announced last August it intends to roll out a 4 Mbps WiMAX network by the fourth quarter of next year, as a complement to its existing W-CDMA and EV-DO services.

To that end, Intel helped out tremendously today, by formally announcing the availability of a key WiMAX system-on-a-chip (SoC), previously known as "Rosedale 2," now as WiMAX Connection 2250.

Installed in a mobile radio that includes a broadband modem, the SoC enables high-speed broadband handsets to connect to both fixed WiMAX networks, and mobile ones like those enabled by Nokia's new Flexi base station model.

At WiMAX World today, Intel executive vice president Sean Maloney touted that the number of carriers currently providing wireless broadband service worldwide now numbers 40, with the number performing trials has risen to 225. Intel will be partnering with Motorola and Clearwire to conduct a mobile WiMAX transmission test throughout the city of Portland, Oregon, throughout next year.

While carriers tend to cast WiMAX as a kind of high-speed data carrier that can be paired with existing cellular service, it’s easy to mask over the fact that a single WiMAX connection could conceivably take over the whole mobile circuit. Intel says its 2250 SoC is capable of handling a discrete WiMAX channel of up to 10 MHz bandwidth. Couple that figure with the WiMAX Forum’s recent independent estimate of spectral efficiency at 1.9 bps per hertz, and you have a system with a theoretical maximum throughput approaching 19 Mbps (WiMAX Forum admits the perceived maximum throughput today is more like 14 Mbps).

By comparison, 3x EV-DO -– which is two generations hence from what most Americans and a good chunk of Europeans consider “mobile broadband” today -– has a perceived maximum of about 4.2 Mbps, with a spectral efficiency of less than half that of WiMAX.

Intel’s news today didn’t mention Nokia, which is unusual, though perhaps just an oversight. The two companies have had a standing agreement since June 2005 to collaborate on WiMAX, and Intel SoC chips will very likely be powering Nokia WiMAX handsets. Though while Nokia has stakes in HSDPA, EV-DO, and WiMAX for wireless broadband, Intel is mainly concerned with just the latter, as the champion of that technology and perhaps the most prominent advocate in favor of its IEEE standardization.

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